On November 3rd, Eagles for Israel hosted Jonathan Elkhoury at Boston College, as part of his CAMERA on Campus Fall 2016 tour. The event was co-sponsored by ZOA.
As a gay, Christian-Arab who fled Lebanon with his family to Israel when he was a teen, Jonathan defies the narrative that certain pundits want put out there of Israel being a rogue ethno-religious state that is intolerant of anyone who is not ‘European’ Jewish. This is a narrative that Eagles for Israel strives to defeat, and which Jonathan, through his lecture, did very effectively.
Arabs in Israel comprise about 20% of the nation’s population. They have equality before the law with their Jewish compatriots, and have all of the same rights and freedoms as them. In many ways, they actually have more freedom in Israel than they do in any of the Arab states that neighbor them. In Israel, LGBT Arabs like Jonathan openly exercise their identities without fear of government oppression. They also have freedom of religion and speech, privileges not seen in other Arab nations.
Jonathan spoke at length about these realities of Israeli life, as well as the tribulations his family faced getting to Israel. His father, being a member of the Israeli-supported South Lebanon Army during the Lebanese Civil War, was threatened by Hezbollah with death, and thus decided to flee along with his family. Uncertain of what to expect, Jonathan and his family found that Israel accepted them with open arms, and continues to do so today.
He discussed the acceptance he has found from Jews in Israel, and how he has found coexistence to be the norm amongst most Israelis; ironically enough, he has felt more acceptance amongst Jews than he has amongst Arabs. His solid place isn Israel was further substantiated when he decided to volunteer to do National Service.. Jonathan also described his work with Father Gabriel Naddaf, an Israeli Arab Orthodox priest who voices support for the Jewish State., which includes investiging in the multiculturalism of Israel.
It is unfortunate that stories like his do not get reported in the media enough. There are tales made by those who want to see the destruction of Israel – who hypocritically attack it while apologize for many of the restrictive, corrupt nations which criticize it. As Jonathan said during his lecture, only in Israel would someone like him be able to live the life of freedom that he does, and Eagles for Israel is committed to helping Jonathan and others share his story and the truth.
Contributed by Albert Barkan, President of CAMERA-supported group Eagles for Israel and CAMERA Fellow at Boston College